In this week's developer blog, we move a little bit away from pure information about Saints Row 2, and take a lighter approach, looking internally at Volition, and some of the employees who inhabit these walls. This entry concerns work entitled "Crunch Rap", created by Nathaniel Albright, Senior Technical Animator, and Ariel Gross, Audio Designer, both of whom were able to find some extra time during the development of Saints Row 2, to create this piece. Each of them has written up their story and creative process behind the song below. You can listen to the song by clicking on the link at the bottom of this entry.
Anyone who works in the game industry, or knows someone in the game industry is familiar with the phenomenon known as crunch; but what is crunch? That's the question that came up in a conversation I had back in February of this year. As we began preparing ourselves for the last stretch of the road on SR2, a fellow co-worker and I were attempting to define the differences between long work weeks versus "crunching". While there's definitely differences between the two, for me at least, crunching encompasses more than just long days. It's really a mental as well as environment shift and that's what I wanted to portray in 'The Crunch'; the work environment with various disciplines each dealing with their own set of issues, as well as the emotional and mental state of the people working through a period of crunch.
I think the most common question I get regarding the crunch rap is, "When did you have time for this?" after all, we were crunching at the time. If I lived at work I probably never would have had time, but luckily for me I get 20-30 minutes a day round trip all to myself as I drive to and from work. For my previous raps, I'd just switch over to some hip-hop station and rap over top of whatever was playing and eventually downloaded the instrumental version of Dr. Dre's '2001' from iTunes, which instantly became the background for all my "nerdcore" endeavors. However, with The Crunch I wanted to do more than just rap it over some beat, I wanted to get it recorded and it only seemed fitting to ask fellow Volitionite and audio designer Ariel Gross if he'd be willing to partake. When Ariel said that not only was he interested in recording it, but was up for replacing the audio with his own workâ¦well I knew we were going to have something quite entertaining.
I had worked with Nathaniel on the cut scenes for Saints Row 2 and we got along well, so when he asked me if there was a way that we could record a rap that he had been working on, I jumped at the opportunity. We were both working absurd hours since it was indeed the middle of SR2 crunch, but I think we both wanted to do something that would give us (and our teammates) a little relent to the crunch madness that was happening all around us. We were certainly strapped on time, so I had Nathaniel bring in his iPod and some little headphones and got him plugged in to the vocal booth that we have at Volition over one of our lunch hours. It was a pretty makeshift recording solution but it got the job done! By the end of that lunch, I figured that we had enough material to put together something rad.
Time was so limited when we recorded this that I was initially worried that I wouldn't be able to write anything that would stand up to the awesomeness of the rap. But, fortunately for me, I do my best work when it's ridiculously late at night, I'm starving, and I have to wake up early in the morning, which is basically an ideal environment for a side project during crunch. After a few late nights of hard-core music-making at home, I had the foundation of what would eventually be The Crunch. I brought in what I had, played it for Nathaniel and Zach Lowery (an animator here at Volition), and their enthusiasm encouraged me to push through and wrap it all up. I sprinkled in some funny SR2 dialog (featuring Johnny Gat and Ultor mastermind Dane Vogel), tightened up the vocals as well as I could given the time I had available, added a little extra bounce to the bass line, and wouldn't ya know we now have a triple-platinum hit on our hands! OK, so, maybe it's not a triple-platinum hit, but it's definitely worth a chuckle or seven.
We originally were going to play it at a team meeting, or maybe just post it to the internal newsgroups at Volition, but eventually our producer had a chance to hear it and offered to put it on the dev blog -- so we are happy to present it here for our community that we love and appreciate so much! My only hope is that it doesn't cause nerdly-overdose to any SR2 fans. It was a lot of fun to make, and I hope that the listeners out there are grinning along with us!
Take a listen to the Saints Row 2 Crunch Rap: CrunchRap.mp3 (5.2 MB - If you would like to download, please right click, save as.)
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